Reprinted from the Tri-County News Sept. 5, 2002. Openings for doctors at that time were relatively scarce. I was hired by Dr. Sherwood in Kimball, Minn. It was a depressed area of the state with a lot of poor people and poor farm land. Dr. Sherwood hired me for $1,500 the first year – a little less than what other members of my class made. Nowadays doctors, under similar conditions, would make $50,000 a year. I lived in a rented room in a private home, and ate at Schmidt’s Café where the teachers and other people would eat on occasion. Liability insurance was $14 a year. One could buy a nice one-story house in Kimball for $3,500.
Reprinted from the Tri-County News Sept. 5, 2002.
Openings for doctors at that time were relatively scarce. I was hired by Dr. Sherwood in Kimball, Minn. It was a depressed area of the state with a lot of poor people and poor farm land. Dr. Sherwood hired me for $1,500 the first year – a little less than what other members of my class made. Nowadays doctors, under similar conditions, would make $50,000 a year.
I lived in a rented room in a private home, and ate at Schmidt’s Café where the teachers and other people would eat on occasion.
Liability insurance was $14 a year. One could buy a nice one-story house in Kimball for $3,500.
I took my patients to the St. Cloud Hospital which was owned and operated by the nuns. I can only say nice things about nuns in my many contacts with them in various places and times. They were always present when I was a patient at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minn. They were always efficient and friendly at the nursing home in Sleepy Eye.
I had a few confinements at the hospital. Most of them were in the home when I started my practice. We did tonsillectomies in the office using ether anesthesia. There were many house calls which often had to be made after hours in the late afternoon. The office was on the ground floor next to the bank. There was a consultation room in front and an examining room behind this – quite inadequate facilities.
I remember quite vividly the Armistice Day snow storm and blizzard of 1940 which was not predicted in advance. There was a train wreck in the neighboring town of Watkins. One crew member was killed and another was badly injured. I was asked to come to Watkins to give emergency help. They would provide a train to get me there as roads were impassable. I helped out that evening, and both of us took the train the next morning to Minneapolis where he could be hospitalized.
I remember one home confinement in particular. I was called out to a farm place where the people appeared to be poor. The mother was soon to be delivered. She lay on the bottom part of a two-bunk bed. One or two children were sleeping on the top part. Usually a trusted neighbor was called to help, but she had no help except for her husband who was no help. So, when the time came for delivery, I dripped chloroform on a mask over her face with one hand and delivered the baby with the other. Fortunately it was an easy delivery.
As I mentioned before, I would eat at Schmidt’s Café. It was there that I met Arla Helleckson who was teaching typing and shorthand in the Kimball High School. We soon became quite well acquainted, and I would invite her to ride along when I made a country house call or maybe made a hospital call. It was quite convenient to stop alongside a pretty lake and chat. We would go see shows at a theater in a neighboring town. When in St. Cloud, we often stopped at Snyder’s Drug Store to have a chocolate hot-fudge sundae. It had become a meaningful friendship and later a growing romance. She roomed with another teacher who grew up in Kimball. This person heard all the local news and gossip, and this was the thing Arla relished – a perfect combination.
I was called in for a draft examination about this time and placed a 4-F because of my lung lesion. It seems strange that for two generations no one was drafted into the armed services in our family.
Arla and I eloped to St. Cloud one fair morning – May 31, 1941, and were married in the Methodist Church. Relatives were not informed of this event. We were to spend our honeymoon by a lake near Forest Lake. X-rays had revealed an enlargement of the lung lesion, and treatment would have to be started. By being near the Twin Cities, it would be convenient to go to see Dr. Meyers at the University of Minnesota.
He started the treatment by injecting about 750 cc of air in the lung cavity which would partially collapse the lung, giving the tuberculosis lesion a chance to heal. The treatments would continue about every three weeks for the next five years. It was a little painful at first, but less so with time (this, to spice up a honeymoon).
Getting back to Kimball, we rented a second-floor apartment. Following this, we moved in with a man who owned the telephone company. It was a nice house, and we got along nicely. Jim was born in the St. Cloud Hospital Nov. 13, 1942, and the rest of the children were born in Sleepy Eye.
I might add that in all my years in medical practice I never had a liability case. These cases were rather rare at that time in comparison with modern times. I practiced in Kimball from 1939 to 1944. This was to be temporary, and it was time to move on.
Dr. Keithahn graduated from the University of Minnesota Medical School in 1938 and interned at Anchor Hospital in St. Paul.
The above story is one chapter of My Legacy, Doc Keithahn’s Memoirs. Written by Dr. Keithahn, the memoirs were compiled and printed into a booklet by his son James Keithahn.
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This Christmas, for yourself, family member or friend, give the gift of history all year long:
• Kimball Historical Society membership
• History picture note cards
• Railroad history postcards
• Recipes & Remembrances Cookbook
• Ceramic trivet
• Coffee mugs
• Maine Prairie-Kimball history booklet
• All-School Reunion Yearbook of 85 years
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Our 2014 events schedule is now finalized and all new again. We hope you’ll stop by City Hall and pick one up before you attend the first one March 25, 2014.
Keep a close eye on this column in the Tri-County News and discover what’s coming up next. We try to keep you well informed all year long and 2014 will be another special year so keep in touch.
For more information about all the above, tax-exempt donations, your stories and photos, contact the Kimball Area Historical Society at P.O. Box 55,
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